In the realm of pressure measurement instruments, the manometer stands as a pivotal tool that has evolved over the years to become an indispensable device in various industries. From its historical origins to the diverse types available today, this article delves deep into the world of manometers, shedding light on their definition, history, types, applications, and providing valuable tips for optimum use.

What is a Manometer?

A manometer is a pressure measurement device used to gauge the pressure of gases and liquids in a closed system. This instrument provides a direct and accurate reading of pressure by balancing the fluid (liquid or gas) in a column against the force exerted by the pressure being measured. The term ‘manometer’ is derived from the Greek words ‘manos,’ meaning thin, and ‘metron,’ meaning measure.

History of Manometer:

The manometer has its roots in the 17th century when Evangelista Torricelli invented the mercury barometer. Robert Boyle’s law and the subsequent development of the U-tube manometer in the 1660s further advanced pressure measurement techniques. In 1849, Eugène Bourdon introduced the Bourdon tube, marking a significant departure from traditional designs. The 20th century witnessed the rise of digital manometers, revolutionizing precision and convenience in pressure measurement. Today, manometers play a crucial role across industries, tracing their evolution from early concepts to modern, sophisticated instruments.

Types of Manometers:

  • U-Tube Manometer: The U-tube manometer is the simplest form, consisting of a U-shaped tube partially filled with liquid. Pressure changes cause the liquid levels in the two legs to shift, providing a measure of the pressure difference.
  • Bourdon Tube Manometer: Named after its inventor Eugène Bourdon, this type uses a curved tube that expands or contracts based on pressure changes. The movement is then translated into a pressure reading.
  • Digital Gas Manometer: With technological advancements, digital gas manometers have become increasingly popular. They offer precise readings and often come with additional features such as data logging and connectivity options.
  • Water Manometer: Water manometers use water as the measuring fluid and are particularly suitable for low-pressure applications. They offer a cost-effective solution for accurate pressure measurement.

Symbols on Manometer:

Manometers often use specific symbols to represent the various components and features on their displays. Here are common symbols you may encounter on a manometer:

  • U-Tube Manometer Symbol: A simple representation of a U-shaped tube indicates the basic structure of a U-tube manometer. The symbol typically consists of a U-shaped line with an arrow pointing to one side to denote the direction of pressure.
  • Fluid Level Symbol: To represent the fluid level in the manometer, a horizontal line intersecting the U-tube is often used. The height of the line indicates the level of the fluid.
  • Pressure Tap Symbol: The pressure tap symbol represents the point at which the manometer is connected to the system under measurement. It is often depicted as a small circle or a triangle at one end of the U-tube.
  • Arrow Symbol for Gas Flow: If the manometer is used to measure gas pressure, an arrow symbol may be included to indicate the direction of gas flow.
  • Digital Display Symbol: On digital manometers, a digital display symbol, often represented as a numeric value or a series of digits, indicates the pressure reading.
  • Units of Measurement: Manometers often include symbols for units of measurement, such as inches of mercury (inHg), millimeters of water (mmH2O), or pascals (Pa). These symbols may be abbreviated or displayed in a standardized format.

These symbols are typically found on the scale or face of the manometer and help users interpret the readings and understand the functioning of the device. Keep in mind that the specific symbols may vary slightly depending on the design and manufacturer of the manometer.

How does a manometer work

A manometer works on the principle of balancing the pressure of a fluid (liquid or gas) in a column against the force exerted by the pressure being measured. There are various types of manometers, but the basic working principle is common among them. Here’s a general explanation of how a U-tube manometer works:

  • U-Tube Configuration: A typical manometer consists of a U-shaped tube, usually made of glass or another transparent material. The tube is partially filled with a liquid, which could be mercury, water, or another suitable fluid.
  • Exposure to Pressure: One end of the U-tube is exposed to the pressure being measured, while the other end is left open to the atmosphere. For instance, if measuring gas pressure, one end is connected to the gas source, and the other end is open to the air.
  • Balancing the Columns: The pressure from the gas or liquid causes the fluid in the U-tube to move. The fluid levels in the two arms of the U-tube adjust until they reach equilibrium, balancing the pressure on both sides. The difference in height between the two fluid columns indicates the pressure difference.
  • Pressure Calculation: The height difference is a direct measure of the pressure applied. This is based on the principle that the pressure at any point in a fluid at rest is the same in all directions. Therefore, the height of the fluid column in the U-tube represents the pressure exerted on it.
  • Reading the Manometer: The pressure is typically read from a scale along the vertical portion of the U-tube. The units of measurement (e.g., inches of mercury, millimeters of water) depend on the type of fluid used in the manometer.

How to use a Manometer:

Using a manometer involves careful setup, reading measurements accurately, and following specific steps based on the type of manometer you have. Here are general guidelines for using a traditional U-tube manometer, which is a common type:

Steps for Using a U-Tube Manometer:

Materials Needed:

  • U-tube manometer
  • Tubing or hose for connecting to the system
  • Fluid (e.g., mercury, water) appropriate for the pressure range
  • A source of pressure (gas or liquid)


  • Setup: Position the manometer at eye level or in a way that allows for easy reading. Fill the U-tube with the chosen fluid, making sure there are no air bubbles.
  • Connect to the System: Connect one end of the manometer tube to the system or equipment where you want to measure pressure. This is typically done using tubing or a pressure tap.
  • Open the System: If the system has a valve or a way to control the flow of gas or liquid, open it to allow pressure to be exerted on the manometer.
  • Reading the Manometer: Observe the levels of the fluid in both arms of the U-tube. The fluid will move to establish equilibrium, and the height difference between the two levels indicates the pressure.
  • Calculating Pressure: Measure the height difference in the manometer tube from the reference point to the fluid level. The pressure is calculated based on the fluid density and gravitational acceleration. Refer to the manometer’s scale to obtain the pressure reading in the chosen units (e.g., inches of mercury, millimeters of water).
  • Closing the System: Once the measurement is complete, close the valve or stop the flow of gas or liquid to the manometer.
  • Recording the Reading: Record the pressure measurement for documentation or further analysis.

Applications of Manometer:

Manometers find applications across various industries due to their versatility. Some key applications include:

  • HVAC systems: Manometers are used to measure air and gas pressures in heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.
  • Medical equipment: They play a crucial role in devices like respiratory ventilators and anaesthesia machines.
  • Industrial processes: Manometers are utilized in chemical plants, refineries, and manufacturing units for pressure monitoring.

Best Tips for Using Manometers:

  • Calibration: Regular calibration ensures accurate readings. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for calibration procedures.
  • Proper Handling: Handle manometers with care, especially the delicate components in digital versions. Avoid dropping or exposing them to extreme temperatures.
  • Correct Fluid Selection: Choose the appropriate fluid for the manometer based on the application. Different fluids offer different pressure measurement capabilities.
  • Secure Connections: Ensure tight and secure connections when attaching the manometer to the system under measurement. Leaks can compromise accuracy.
  • Regular Maintenance: Conduct routine maintenance checks to identify and address any wear and tear promptly. This includes inspecting hoses, tubes, and connections.
  • Avoid Air Bubbles: Ensure there are no air bubbles in the manometer tube, as they can affect the accuracy of the measurement.

Remember that digital manometers may have specific instructions based on their design, and it’s crucial to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for proper usage. Always prioritize safety when working with pressure systems and handling manometers, and consult the user manual for your specific instrument for detailed instructions.


In conclusion, the manometer has come a long way from its humble beginnings, evolving into a sophisticated instrument widely used for precise pressure measurement. Whether you opt for traditional U-tube designs or embrace digital technology, understanding the types, applications, and best practices ensures optimal performance. As industries continue to rely on accurate pressure measurements, the manometer remains a steadfast tool in mastering the intricacies of fluid dynamics and gas pressure.

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FAQs on Using a Manometer:

What is a manometer used for?

A manometer is used to measure the pressure of gases and liquids in a closed system. It provides accurate readings by balancing the pressure of a fluid in a U-shaped tube against the force exerted by the pressure being measured.

Can I use any fluid in a manometer?

The choice of fluid depends on the pressure range you are measuring. Mercury is often used for high-pressure applications, while water or other liquids may be suitable for lower pressures.

How do I prevent air bubbles in the manometer tube?

Ensure the manometer tube is filled carefully to eliminate air bubbles. Tilt the manometer if needed and tap gently to release any trapped air.

Is it safe to use a manometer with mercury?

Handling mercury requires caution due to its toxicity. Follow safety guidelines, use proper personal protective equipment, and dispose of mercury according to regulations.

How often should I calibrate my manometer?

Regular calibration is essential for accuracy. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for calibration procedures, and consider calibration before critical measurements.

Can I use a manometer for both gas and liquid pressure measurements?

Yes, a manometer is versatile and can measure the pressure of both gases and liquids. Ensure the manometer is compatible with the type of fluid you are measuring.

What units are commonly used on a manometer scale?

Units such as inches of mercury (inHg), millimeters of water (mmH2O), or pascals (Pa) are commonly used on manometer scales. Choose the units that match your measurement requirements.

Are digital manometers user-friendly for beginners?

Yes, digital manometers are often designed to be user-friendly. They provide easy-to-read digital displays and may have additional features such as data logging and connectivity options.

Can I use any tubing for connecting the manometer to the system?

Use tubing suitable for the pressure and type of fluid you are measuring. Check for compatibility and ensure there are no leaks in the connections.

What should I do if my manometer readings seem inaccurate?

Check for air bubbles, ensure proper fluid choice, inspect connections for leaks, and consider calibration. If issues persist, consult the manufacturer’s troubleshooting guide or seek professional assistance.

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